Sen. Kelly Co-Sponsors Bipartisan Legislation to Strengthen RECA

Last week, Arizona Senator Mark Kelly and U.S. Senators Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.), Ben Ray Luján (D-N.M.), Mike Crapo (R-Idaho), Jim Risch (R-Idaho), Jacky Rosen (D-Nev.), Catherine Cortez Masto (D-Nev.), Cory Booker (D-NJ), Michael Bennet (D-Colo.), and Maggie Hassan (D-N.H.) introduced bipartisan legislation aimed at strengthening the Radiation Exposure Compensation Act (RECA) to compensate individuals exposed to radiation while working in uranium mines or living downwind from atomic weapons testing sites.  

This legislation would update the current RECA program by expanding the geographic downwinder eligibility to include all counties in Arizona, New Mexico, Colorado, Idaho, and Montana. It would also expand eligibility for certain individuals working in uranium mines, mills or transporting uranium ore, and increase the amount of compensation an individual may receive. This bill will also extend the RECA program another 19 years if signed into law. Currently, the RECA program is set to expire in 2022. 

“Too many Arizonans living in rural and tribal communities have suffered serious health effects stemming from uranium mining and atmospheric radiation exposure over time. Though we cannot put a cost on human health or life, we must do right by these families by providing them compensation to receive the medical care and justice they deserve, which is why I’m joining my colleagues in both parties to strengthen and expand RECA,” said Senator Kelly. 

“On behalf of the Navajo Nation, I thank Sen. Kelly for co-sponsoring the RECA Amendments of 2021 to ensure that this program reaches its full potential in addressing the impacts of radiation exposure on the Navajo people. The extension of RECA beyond 2022 and the inclusion of post-1971 uranium workers are two changes that the Navajo Nation strongly supports. As we work together, we also urge Congress to include all downwinders, to expand eligibility for coverage under the program to include additional categories of uranium workers and types of cancers and other radiation-related illnesses, and to increase the compensation cap to a minimum of $200,000 per individual regardless of worker classification or category of disease. We look forward to working with Sen. Kelly and other members of Congress to move this bill forward for the Navajo people,” said Navajo Nation President Jonathan Nez.

“On behalf of the Downwinders of Mohave County, I want to thank and commend our Arizona Senators Kelly and Sinema, for supporting the proposed expansion and extension of the Radiation Exposure Compensation Act. We residents of Northern Arizona witnessed the premature and tragic deaths of so many citizens of our region, with little to no recognition or compensation for the injustice that had befallen them. This is the largest step that Congress has taken to rectify this problem since RECA was passed,” said Matt Capalby, spokesperson for the Downwinders of Mohave County.

Kelly is also a co-sponsor of the Downwinders Parity Act, legislation that supports Arizonans experiencing sickness from exposure to radiation in Mohave County.

For the Radiation Exposure Compensation Act (RECA) bill text, click here.